The old metaphor of wolves and sheep is well-known. Sheep aren’t really managed by wolves. They’re managed by shepherds. The wolf represents an existential threat to sheep, but the shepherd represents the guide.
So what’s the difference between the shepherd and the sheep? Sheep only take their guidance from the shepherd (and the shepherd’s dogs). It is assumed that the shepherd makes his (or her) own choices. At the very least, the shepherd gets input from a variety of sources.
Does the sheep believe it is being controlled? There’s no way to know for sure, but if they are getting food and water and enjoying the comradery of their fellow sheep, they probably believe life is good. If life is good, then just maybe it is a result of making good choices. It’s easy to believe that you’re in control -- even if you’re a sheep.
So how can you test to see if you’re a sheep or not? It might actually be easier to test to see if you’re a shepherd. Here’s some question you can answer:
- If you are affiliated with a political party, do you spend any time investigating the perspectives of the other party from their own materials?
- Do you get your news from more than one or two well-aligned sources?
- Do you have any close friends who do NOT share your core ideological beliefs?
- When you need to make a decision, do you seek out people with opposing views to help you decide?
- When you get into a debate with someone who disagrees with you on deeply embedded beliefs and they make a good case, do you change your beliefs?
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you are a shepherd. If not, you might be a sheep. Maybe it’s okay to be a sheep. We all know that for every shepherd, there are lots of sheep. Maybe that’s the natural order of things.
My struggle with this is that shepherds raise their sheep for purposes of self-aggrandizement at the sheeps’ expense. The term “getting fleeced” is one example of how this metaphor translates to the human experience. “The meat market” is an even more ominous outcome. In the end, the shepherd seems to come out better than the sheep. So, I will opt to be a shepherd. It’s more work and can sometimes be uncomfortable letting go of long held beliefs, but it seems like a fair price to pay for real freedom.